If you'd like to work in an industry where it's possible to go from the dish room to the boardroom, a career in hospitality may be right for you. You'll probably have to wait tables and prep a few meals in between, but the rewards are well worth the work.
"People always have to eat," says Gerald Fernandez, president of Providence, Rhode Island's MultiCultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA). "That gives you some job security."
Service-oriented positions and chef jobs are currently on employers' radars, according to Robert Bosselman, PhD, director of Florida State University's Dedman School of Hospitality. Business clubs and private clubs, as well as colleges, schools and hospitals, are good options to consider.
If you're willing to take a gamble, consider working in the gaming industry. Casinos are popping up all over the country.
Need to get away from it all? Work at a major resort or on a cruise ship.
If you're a sports enthusiast, you can root for your home team while ushering in the fans. And don't forget the major arenas and stadiums. You will be the envy of all your friends when they find out you're essentially getting paid to see your favorite rock band in concert.
So how does one go about obtaining a gig in this industry? Bosselman notes that there are openings in venues in every city. Visit the restaurants, hotels, stadiums, etc., that you are interested in working for with a positive attitude and a good work ethic, and you'll likely land a position.
Be Ready to Pay Your Dues
Don't be discouraged if you're offered a position as a dishwasher. Bossleman points out that some of today's top chefs and restaurant owners started their careers washing dishes. If you aspire to move up in the kitchen or be a restaurant owner, back-of-the-house experience is a must.
Fernandez says entry-level jobs provide opportunities to learn the basics, such as sanitation and food preparation. Furthermore, "the industry is growing so rapidly, that if you are motivated and people-oriented, you will move up quickly within the organization," he says.
Balancing Your Plate
The industry may operate 24/7, but that doesn't mean you'll be working around the clock. The industry recognizes that employees seek work-life balance. To compete for talent, companies are making adjustments. Progressive organizations are giving employees consecutive days off and are not requiring excessive amounts of overtime. They recognize that employee burnout is equally detrimental to the employers and patrons as it is to the employees.
Fernandez encourages job seekers to look for an organization, company or brand that exemplifies what they would look for when dining out or staying in a lodging facility -- cleanliness, positive attitude of the servers and inclusiveness, for instance. These are the types of places where you will most likely have opportunities to excel and advance.
Find a company that demonstrates excellence, even if it's a burger joint. Organizations that focus on excellence usually pay attention to their employees' needs.
Keep an Open Mind
Don't let your biases get in the way. If you envision yourself driving around town in a new car, start applying for positions in the fast-food industry. Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald's believes in promoting hourly workers into management positions. Stick around long enough, and you may be one of the many general store managers who receive company cars for business and personal use. The company will even throw in the cost of insurance, maintenance and repairs. If that doesn't whet your appetite, maybe such benefits as stock options, medical and dental insurance, and the opportunity to participate in a sabbatical program will do the trick.